Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ramadan is here again!

Ramadan is upon us again! This year the first day of Ramadan was June 6 (also the Swedish national day!) so we are already some days into this special time. Every year since we bought our riad we have spent some time in Marrakech during Ramadan which is always fascinating! It is really interesting to take part of this celebration when the Muslims cannot eat, drink, smoke or have sex during sunlight for 30 days. 

The normally so hectic and pulsating city takes on a slower pace and seems to be on drugs since everybody is tired, hungry and thirsty. And due to the heat, that could go up to 45 degrees, there is low season for tourists. On top of that most ex-pats decide to leave town this month to go on holiday elsewhere in the world. Many restaurants close down completely and even some hotels shut down for the whole period.

So why stay in Marrakech during Ramadan?
Hmm, the description above might not seem very exciting but is in fact a really cool time to be in Marrakech. The energy is so different and every night there is a post apocalypse feeling for a few minutes when the sun sets and people swiftly disappear off the streets to break their fast. You feel you have the whole of Marrakech for yourself for these minutes. It is a really unique experience! And the hours after sunset are filled with joy and laughter with parties everywhere in the streets. Oh, did we mention that during Ramadan Muslims must be honest so this is the best time to bargain in the souks! 

When the cresent moon is seen, Ramadan starts!

When is Ramadan?
To fast during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. This year it started in Morocco on the 18th June. The exact starting date is every year a little bit uncertain and is decided just the night before when someone, we don't know who but he must be high up in Moroccan religious circles, decides he can see the new crescent moon after sundown! That night loud canon shots can be heard all over the city and people start to prepare to fast between 3.45 in the morning to 7.45 in the evening.

At approximately 7.45 every night the call for prayer is heard loudly all over Marrakech and everybody runs to get something to drink and something small to eat, like a couple of dates.

Why is Ramadan never on the same date every year? 
Since the Islamic year follows the moon, Ramadan is beginning 11 days earlier than the year before. At the moment Ramadan is during the scorching and difficult summer months but in a few years it will be easier to fast and abstain water when the temperature is cooler. (In 2020 it will start april 24).

Ramadan is a big thing and is to be celebrated joyfully. You greet people this month saying "Ramadan Kareem!" or "Happy Ramadan!". All stores have special Ramadan offers, this window display is from Zara
Can you skip Ramadan?
All muslims must take part of Ramadan but there are some exceptions, the really sick, children before puberty and women who are about to give birth are allowed to skip it. Also women who menstruate or are nursing and if you are on a journey are exceptions but these people must fast the amount of days they missed afterwards. If you are really old you can also be excused provided you feed a poor man for each day you break the fast. Another exception is if the country is at war, then it is ok for the warriors to eat and drink, luckily! (Make sence!)

Even McDonalds celebrates Ramadan!
What should muslims do during Ramadan?
Everybody is encouraged to read the Quran during Ramadan! The goal for the ambitious ones is to read the whole book, back to back, two times during this month which is considered to be the most holy and blessed of them all. You are therefore not allowed to fight and you should donate as much as you can to charity and beggars in the street. 
Ramadan is not for cheating, lying or gossiping and you should also pray more than usual and think about not eat too much during the night or sleep too much during the day. Ironically though during Ramadan the sales for food and groceries increase alot since everybody seems to eat loads after the sun sets every night. And as a consequence, the electric bill is much more expensive than usual this month.
Ramadan was the month when the Quran was first revealed to the profet Mohammed.

When does Ramadan end?
After the 30 days of fast are done and the moon has gone full circle Ramadan is over and a three day feast is held called Eid. This is one of the biggest celebration in Morocco, if not the biggest. (We really look forward to take part of that!!) Afterwards life goes back to normal again for another year.
All sales of wine and spirits are shut down. However, if you can prove you are non-muslim you might be able to purchase some bottles in the supermarket. Or in the more upscale restaurants
So what does a typical day during Ramadan look like?
3.30 am    Get up and eat breakfast (Suhoor) before sunrise.
3.45 am    Sunrise, call for prayer from the mosques. 
4.00 am    Back to bed.
7.30 am    Wake up again and get ready for work.
9.00 am    Work starts (for officials).
Noon        Second prayer of the day.
2.00 pm    Third prayer of the day.
3.00 pm    Work finishes (shorter work days during Ramadan)
4.30 pm    Fourth prayer of the day. 
7.45 pm    The fast is broken by some dates.
7.50 pm    Time for some Harira soup.
8.00 pm    Fifth prayer of the day (the most important one!)
10.00 pm  A big dinner (Iftar or ftour) is served!
11.30 pm   Bedtime!
Mind you, this is the time table if you live in Morocco, if you live in Sweden for example you have two choices, either you follow the Swedish sun and only have a couple of hours every night when you can eat (due to the short nights in the summer) or you can follow the Mekka sun and fast the same hours you do in Saudi Arabia.  
All set for trying Ramadan (one day only)!

Wow that's was lot of information, hope we haven't forgot anything important now. By the way, we've promised Rachida, our housekeeper, to try to fast at least one day during Ramadan. So we will follow the schedule above and see if we can make it! 
RAMADAN MURBAK to all our Moroccan friends!